Cancer patients are waiting too long to be treated at hospitals in west London, the latest NHS figures reveal.
West Middlesex Hospital, in Isleworth; the Royal Brompton and Harefield, in Chelsea; the Royal Marsden, in South Kensington; and the North West London Hospitals Trust (NWLHT), in Harrow, all failed to meet government waiting times in the first quarter of 2014.
At least 85 per cent of cancer patients should begin treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral, according to government targets.
But the national average for the latest quarter was only 84.4 per cent, statistics published today by NHS England show.
Royal Brompton and Harefield only treated 62.8 per cent of patients within the deadline, which was the lowest percentage in the country. However, only 22 patients were referred during this period.
West Middlesex was the ninth worst nationally, treating 75.4 per cent of the 57 cancer patients referred within the deadline, while the Royal Marsden and NWLHT treated 79.5 and 83.5 per cent of patients within the time frame.
A spokeswoman for West Middlesex Hospital said cancer referrals had risen by nearly a third in the last three years and it was working hard to meet the increase in demand.
She added that it was important for patients to understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, as some delayed appointments due to holidays and other prior commitments.
WHAT THE HOSPITALS HAD TO SAY
A West Middlesex Hospital spokeswoman said: "Since 2011 the trust has seen a 32 per cent increase in the number of referrals for suspected cancer. The trust is working hard to meet this increase in demand and is undertaking a review of demand and capacity to ensure our resources meet those required which will help to eliminate unnecessary delays.
"It is important that patients understand the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Often patients delay their initial appointment and/or treatment due to prior commitments such as holidays.
"The Trust continues to work closely with GPs to ensure that patients attend their initial appointment and do not unnecessarily delay treatment. This is important to make sure that patients have the best possible chance of recovery.
"Some of our patients are referred to other hospitals for specialist treatment; we work closely with them to make sure there are no unnecessary delays to the patients’ treatment care plan.
"The trust has recently implemented a more robust process for monitoring patients' care pathway so that they receive timely treatment at every stage of their care."
A Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: "The trust treats patients with a single type of tumour – lung cancer. Treatment is often complex and can involve a number of other, complicating factors.
"Patients are often referred to the trust after day 62 has already passed. There is a system whereby these breaches of the target can be reallocated to the first trust. These so called ‘breach reallocations’ are not taken into account in these figures from NHS England.
"The trust is working with referring hospitals to see how we can help them expedite the referral pathway. Every patient we treat is assessed clinically and priority is given to those whose need is greatest irrespective of target considerations."
A spokeswoman for the North West London Hospitals Trust said: "Having achieved the target in Q1 and Q2, we were disappointed that we fell below the requirement in Q3 and Q4. However, we are pleased that overall we achieved all cancer waiting times to the year end 2013-14.
Various factors contributed to this target not being met, including complex cases needing further investigations, patients being referred from other hospitals late in the pathway causing a delay in their treatment, patients being on holiday and delays in diagnostics.
As part of the London Cancer Alliance, we are working to improve the services we provide to ensure all patients are seen within the specified time.
* getwestlondon has approached the other hospitals mentioned for a comment and will add their responses as they come.